Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

Eyes meeting eyes

Eyes meeting eyes

Dorothea stuns a silly, wilful and selfish young woman with her powerful, radiant kindness and, having meant to disdain her, the girl is undone by this unexpected sympathy. I liked the simile of blue flowers conveying the helplessness of her gaze. '... her eyes met...

A sack of scrap iron

A sack of scrap iron

A description of a huge, lumbering imperial frame, this referring to Tsar Nicholas I who succeeded his brother Alexander.'Though his heavy bones resembled scrap iron in a potato sack, he was handsome.'From the first and best volume of a trilogy of novels by the...

A falcon and a dove

A falcon and a dove

Dali is the younger of Hungarian aristocratic twins, and here is an early encounter with the beautiful, elusive Russian who would become his wife. He pursues her, falcon-like to her fleeing dove. A glorious Hungarian historical novel - first of a trilogy - spanning...

Of striking light

Of striking light

A vivid image, of light striking mountains like a hatchet splitting the darkness. From the first volume of an excellent Hungarian trilogy covering most of the 19th century events affecting an aristocratic family in the Austro-Hungarian empire.'Bluish light struck the...

Like a bone in the throat

Like a bone in the throat

A vivid simile to describe the bother that mighty Austria was for Prussia. This is from a trilogy of novels by the Hungarian writer Lajos Zilahy (1891-1974), tracing the decline of a Hungarian aristocratic family in the 19th century Austro-Hungarian empire and into...

Going on a date

Going on a date

The photographer Robert Capa, known for some of the most iconic war photos of the 20th century, explains how unmissable a date with an invasion is for a war correspondent. I liked the analogy. Capa was killed in action when he stepped on a mine at the age of 40. 'For...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

A luminous woman

The woman appears after a period of darkness in the boys’ lives, from which women were excluded – she is the first woman the boy sees that he can remember.

‘The woman...

Blue as deep as…

It seems some newborns have blue eyes even if later they take on other hues.  Colour is one of the most slippery elements to describe, so I like this reference...

Departing hope

A grimly compelling way to evoke a louring sky.  Compare this 'departing hope' with Vasily Grossman's description of the rising sun like a burst of hope.

'Under a leaden-coloured sky,...

Of striking light

A vivid image, of light striking mountains like a hatchet splitting the darkness. From the first volume of an excellent Hungarian trilogy covering most of the 19th century events affecting...

Like a burst of hope

A heartening simile in a vivid, gripping narrative of humans ground between the shifting tectonic plates of contradictory but equally totalitarian ideologies. There is neither much sunshine nor hope in...

A butterfly in a cactus library

Such an imaginative construct to describe a jagged script!  I had fun looking for an image of a cabbage-looking butterfly flitting around a spiky plant.  And in case you aren’t...

Smell as a carrier of memory

For better or worse, few things can as quickly transport you to another place, time, or experience as a smell.  These olfactory reminders are often so strong and instantaneous that...

Mind as mirror

Mrs Kirkpatrick, step-mother to the heroine Molly, is a wonderful character in one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s finest novels. Published in 1860 soon after her sudden death, it has the human...

An unmapped river

A marvelous image for human destinies, usually well hidden no matter the efforts we make to discern them. Since this engaging classic revolves around a mill - and a related...

The Promised Land

What makes for a promised land?  Name the elements you would choose.  This one has three timeless components, and is rosy-dawn luminous.

'... the Promised Land, made up of dew,...

 

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